People from Jerusalem had been exiled to Babylon. They were refugees in a foreign land. Jeremiah, a prophet who was still back in Jerusalem, was able to get a letter to these refugees. In this letter, found in Jeremiah 29, he gives these people the reason they had been exiled, how to act during the exile and most of all hope for the future.
All through the letter Jeremiah warns of the false prophets among them. Jeremiah 29: 8 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, 9 because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the Lord. What might these dreams have been? To return home and have everything be normal again. But Jeremiah says to settle down because they will be there seventy years. He also warns them against wishing they were still back in Jerusalem. They are in a safer place as refugees. He goes onto explain that those in Jerusalem will have war, famine, disease and be scattered among the nations.
Then Jeremiah goes onto expose these false prophets for who they really are. Yes, they were telling the people what they wanted to hear, but they were also acting immorally. The people were to discern the character of these men by their actions. Years later Jesus would explain. Matthew 7: 15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
In the end, the false prophets in Babylon would be executed by the king of Babylon and their names remembered for their terrible fate. Jeremiah wanted these refugees to listen to the right voice and in discerning the right voice, hear what God wanted them to know.
In today’s world, we have a myriad of voices that are vying for our attention. How do we discern who we should listen to? First, pray for God’s wisdom. Then follow the advice of Jesus; what do their actions demonstrate about their character? Does their message line up with what God says in Scripture? What do trusted teachers say about the voice and the people behind it? After answering these questions, you will be able to begin to discern who to listen to. Just as it was important for the exiles to listen to the right voice so God could work, it is the same for us today.
To hear more about hope for refugees, listen here: https://podpoint.com/light-of-christ-church-podcast/hope-for-refuges